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CT police chief placed on leave after domestic violence arrest

The chief of the East Lyme Police Department has been placed on leave after he was arrested by state police in connection with a domestic violence incident that left a woman with a bloody and possibly broken nose.

Michael Finkelstein, 53, was arrested Wednesday on charges of disorderly conduct and second-degree breach of peace, according to Connecticut State Police.

He was arraigned later that day in New London Superior Court, where his case was adjourned until June 18, according to court records. He is free on $10,000 bail, according to records.

“Chief Michael Finkelstein has been placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation into his arrest on a family-related matter,” East Lyme police said in a statement.

In Finkelstein's absence, Lt. Michael Macek will serve as acting chief, the East Lyme Police Commission decided.

According to the arrest warrant affidavit, a woman who lives with Finkelstein called 911 shortly after 5 a.m. Tuesday and initially spoke with East Lyme police officers who came to the apartment. She told them that Finkelstein had punched her in the face during a domestic incident at her home the night before.

The woman said she took Finkelstein's work cellphone during an argument and went into another room to search it, the affidavit states. The woman said he followed her into the room and the two argued over the phone.

According to the victim, Finkelstein had several drinks and became angry when he thought she was trying to call someone on his work phone. She told officers he punched her in the face, although the motion she made to police was described as an “upward palm strike,” the arrest warrant affidavit states.

The woman said she heard a popping sound in her nose and believed it was broken. After he allegedly punched her in the face, she claimed Finkelstein put his hands around her throat and told officers he had done this before, the arrest warrant affidavit states.

Finkelstein then allegedly threw the cellphone at the woman's chest, causing a bruise, according to the arrest warrant affidavit.

Officers found the woman had multiple injuries, including dried blood on her nose, upper lip and chin. She also told police she did not call them the night before because Finkelstein allegedly told her they would not believe her and he would “take steps to make sure she is not credible,” according to the arrest warrant affidavit.

When East Lyme police spoke with Finkelstein, he claimed the woman sustained the injury when he tried to take his cellphone back from her, the arrest warrant affidavit states. He claimed he tried to grab the device, but she pulled it away and he let go, at which point she hit herself in the face with the device, the arrest warrant affidavit states.

Finkelstein also claimed that the woman had been threatening to “cause trouble for him” all night and that she had intentionally not washed her face so that there was dried blood on it, according to the arrest warrant affidavit.

To avoid a possible conflict of interest, detectives from the State Police Eastern District Crime Major Squad took over the investigation.

A detective met with the victim in a parking lot in East Lyme around 3 p.m. on Tuesday, where she allegedly gave him a different version of events.

According to the affidavit, the woman claimed Finkelstein drank at least three or four glasses of wine and some liquor before they got into a “heated conversation.” During that conversation, she grabbed his work phone to check for messages “that were not strictly work-related in nature,” she told state police.

When Finkelstein tried to retrieve the device, the two allegedly got into an argument on the phone and she told him she was going to call 911 because she was “scared,” the affidavit states. During the argument, “he accidentally hit me in the chin and nose with his phone,” the woman told state police.

“I initially told the East Lyme officers that Michael hit me on the chin and nose with the palm of his hand,” she said, according to the affidavit. “Now I believe it was his cell phone that hit me and that it was an accident.”

The woman also claimed that the bruise on her chest was not caused by Finkelstein throwing a phone at her, the arrest warrant affidavit states.

“That didn't happen,” she told investigators. “I think I got the bruise while fighting over Michael's phone.”

The victim told state police she only called 911 because she thought one of Finkelstein's “coworkers” could talk to him and convince him to go to anger management therapy. But she claimed the police officers who first came to her home were “not much help,” the arrest warrant affidavit states.

The woman ended the interview by telling state police that she had no safety concerns and intended to seek medical treatment for what she believed to be a broken nose, according to the arrest warrant affidavit.

“I just want Michael to get help for his anger issues,” she said.

Finkelstein agreed to meet with a state police investigator several hours later in the same parking lot where the victim had spoken to investigators. He told state police he was “confused” why the woman was so upset during the incident and claimed that when he tried to calm her down, she grabbed his work cellphone and ran into another room to search it, state police wrote.

Finkelstein said he waited about 15 minutes before going upstairs and allegedly finding the woman sitting on the floor going through his phone, the affidavit states. He said he told her he needed it back in case he received a work-related call or text.

When he tried to grab it, the woman pulled it back and he let go, causing the phone to allegedly fall on her face, the affidavit states. Her nose began to bleed and she told Finkelstein, “Look what you did,” he told investigators.

Finkelstein said he told the victim she did it to herself, and when he left the room, she allegedly followed him and yelled at him, the affidavit states. He said he then grabbed his personal cellphone and the victim's phone and went outside, where he threw both devices into some bushes and flowers out of frustration.

Finkelstein told state police the victim later went outside to get her phone and left his behind, the arrest warrant affidavit states. He claimed he waited outside for about 20 minutes before going back inside.

Finkelstein claimed the woman threatened to call 911 several times and each time he told her to “just call,” according to the arrest warrant affidavit.

The next morning, Finkelstein said, the victim was allegedly angry because he had not apologized for punching her in the face, and he again told her she had done it to herself, the arrest warrant affidavit states. When she called 911, he said he waited upstairs for officers to arrive.

A state police detective issued an arrest warrant for Finkelstein after concluding that his explanation of how the victim sustained the injury to his nose “made no sense,” the detective wrote in the affidavit.

“If the victim had been sitting on the floor as described by the defendant and he had been standing in front of her, the victim would have pulled downward toward her chest or stomach and not upward toward her face,” the arrest warrant affidavit states.